The Blythe family are famous for their association with Bishops’ House but I’d like to write about some of the other people who lived in the house over the last five hundred years.
On the inside of the door at the bottom of the east staircase, if you look closely, you can see the initials ‘GW’ carved into one of the planks. I think that these are the initials of George Wilde [sometimes Wild] who lived in Bishops’ House. This is his story ….
His parents were George Wilde and Ann Green, who married in 1753. They had five children; George baptised in 1754, Thomas in 1756, Anne in 1758, Mary in 1760 and Elizabeth in 1762. Anne ‘wife of George Wilde of the Lees’ was buried in 1764. The two sons, George and Thomas are next mentioned in the Land Tax list of 1779 when they are charged £0 15s 6¾d for ‘two messauges and lands’.
We next hear of them in the list of fields accompanying the 1805 Fairbanks map of the Parish of Norton. They are farming six fields with a total of 10.8 acres from Bishops’ House north towards the Meers Brook. Notable is field number 611 which is labelled ‘homestead and garden’ and encompasses Bishops’ House. This gives us a strong indication that the brothers were living in the house and also shows that the house didn’t have a particular name at that time.
The Scarsdale Hundred 1810, County of Derby for the Parish and Township of Norton in the said County lists 15s. 6¾d under the names of George & Thomas Wilde, occupiers with Samuel Shore Senior Esq. as Proprietor.
The Norton Rate Assessment of 1817 lists 0.675 acres rented by George and Thomas Wilde from Samuel Shore senior Esq. Field 611 here is described as ‘homestead outhouses and garden.’
These four references help to show that the brothers were living in Bishop’s House and farming the land from 1779. They could not have been there much earlier as George would have been 25 and Thomas 23 in 1779.
Both brothers married women called Sarah. George and his wife Sarah had eleven children between 1779 and 1799. Thomas and his wife Sarah had seven children between 1785 and 1796.
We know that there was a door, now blocked up but whose outline is still to be seen, in the east wall of Bishops’ House. It was probably blocked up so that the second staircase could be inserted, in the north east corner of the house. The room we call the Tapestry Room was created by inserting a partition wall to divide the east end of the upper floor, leaving a corridor from the top of the east staircase to the room above the Hall. The window in this corridor also has the appearance of being a late insert to give some light to the corridor. The house was also partitioned internally for two families. This partition was taken out during the renovations of 1974-6 but it appears likely that it was put in around the time the Wilde brothers were there so that each could have their own space.
The Norton Parish records of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials runs from 1559 and is very comprehensive. I found only one record of one of these eighteen Wilde children dying young, so that by the late 1790s there would have been twenty one people living in Bishops’ House, seventeen of them children! A small room has also been created at the west end of the house, above the Parlour, where two cross braces have been removed and a wooden screen inserted. Were these attempts to subdivide the house for living space for all the children?
There is one mistake in the above sources. By the time of the 1817 Norton Rate Assessment, both brothers had died. George died in 1815 and Thomas in 1816. Both their wives outlived them by many years, passing away in 1831 and 1834.
Sources: The Abstract of the title to a freehold estate called ‘The Meersbrook Bank Estate’ situate in the Parish of Norton in the County of Derby 
Norton from the survey of W & J Fairbanks in the year 1804 & 1805.
The Scarsdale Hundred 1810, County of Derby for the Parish and Township of Norton in the said County.
The Norton Rate Assessment of 1817.